Qin Gang: Speculation rife as Chinese foreign minister missing for over three weeks

Social media abuzz with rumours of missing minister’s alleged extramarital affair with TV presenter

Alisha Rahaman Sarkar
Tuesday 18 July 2023 13:07 BST
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang holds a copy of China’s constitution during a press conferencein March 2023
Chinese foreign minister Qin Gang holds a copy of China’s constitution during a press conferencein March 2023 (AFP via Getty Images)

China's "wolf warrior" foreign minister Qin Gang has been missing from the public eye for more than three weeks now, skipping important diplomatic meetings, which has led to speculations about his disappearance.

The hawkish Mr Qin was last seen on 25 June when he met with visiting officials from Sri Lanka, Russia and Vietnam.

Since then, the 57-year-old diplomat, a close confidante of Chinese president Xi Jinping, has not been seen in public amid rumours of his extramarital affair with a TV presenter.

Considered a protege of the Chinese president, Mr Qin's rise up the ladder in elite Chinese politics has been swift. He served as a foreign ministry spokesperson before being promoted to the ambassador to the US, and eventually the foreign minister in December last year.

During his 24-day absence, Mr Qin skipped major events such as the foreign ministers meeting with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations trading bloc in Jakarta last week. The ministry in a statement said he was unable to attend the meeting due to "health reasons".

Mr Qin's absence was filled by his predecessor and Communist party’s central committee foreign affairs commission head Wang Yi.

Mr Wang attended the Jakarta summit, where he met US secretary of state Antony Blinken on the sidelines. The Chinese diplomat also accompanied president Xi for a meeting with Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte and received US climate envoy John Kerry in Beijing.

US climate envoy John Kerry (L) is greeted by top Chinese diplomat Wang Yi (Getty Images)

Prior to his disappearance, the outspoken foreign minister held meetings and other diplomatic exchanges every other day since taking over the post. He adopted a “wolf warrior” approach, lashing out at the US over the Taiwan row during heightened tensions between the countries.

Mr Qin’s meeting with EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell this month was also postponed without any explanation.

When asked about his disappearance, Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning on Monday said she had “no information” when her boss would return to his post. However, she said China's “diplomatic activities were continuing normally".

Social media has been abuzz with reports of Mr Qin’s alleged affair with a prominent TV presenter, whose last tweets from April feature images of her child and a still from an interview she did with the foreign minister.

The posts appear to have not been completely censored, a rarity given the Chinese government's stringent regulation of social media content.

China's Communist Party frowns upon cadres having extramarital relationships and often cites affairs when charging officials with corruption.

When asked about the alleged rumours, the Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson on Monday told reporters: “I’m unaware of what you said.”

Mr Qin's longest previous absence was just eight days over the Lunar New Year holiday, according to the government.

Disappearances of politicians, celebrities, and rights activists, often forced, are common in China.

Chinese tennis star Peng Shuai went missing from public view in 2021 after she accused former Chinese vice-premier of sexual misconduct. Her post calling out the leader was taken off by censors swiftly and she later reappeared and denied her own allegations, claiming it was a misunderstanding.

Meng Hongwei, the former Chinese head of Interpol disappeared while travelling in China in 2018. Two years later, he was sentenced to nearly 14 years in prison for taking more than $2m in bribes.

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